Father-son team takes on Bermuda One-Two

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Maine sailmaker praises his teenage son for keeping his head, even in a storm

Maine sailmaker praises his teenage son for keeping his head, even in a storm

Doug Pope and his 16-year-old son, Collin, love to sail. Ever since Collin was 10, Pope has had his son on the water, teaching him all he knows about sailing — and sailing fast. From Tuesday Night Racing in Rockland (Maine) Harbor, to competing in the Admiral Digby Cup and the Downeast Challenge, this father-and-son-team from Maine have worked on gradually improving their skills to be able to enter more offshore races.

In June aboard their 33-foot Tartan 10, Walkabout, the Popes sailed in the Bermuda One-Two race. Not only did these first-timers do well, they placed first in their class on combined corrected time and finished sixth overall.

“Single-handed sailing is something I’ve always been interested in doing,” Pope says. “Having the opportunity to do that and then return with my son was great.”

The Bermuda One-Two is a biennial two-part competition first raced in 1979. A lone skipper departs from Newport, R.I., and sails solo more than 600 miles to St. George’s, Bermuda. The sailor is then joined by one crewmember and they make the voyage back to Newport together (hence the “One-Two” in the event’s name).

Pope, who is 46, set off from Newport with the rest of the fleet on June 3 and completed the first leg of the race in five days and eight hours, placing first in his class. The sailing, Pope says, couldn’t have been better. “I was sailing with two headsails the whole time, which is just unheard of,” he says. “It really was great sailing.”

After a brief layover in Bermuda, Pope set off for the double-handed leg of the race, on June 16, this time joined by Collin. Although the weather was mostly favorable, the team’s skills were put to the test when they sailed into a squall.

“We were in the Gulf Stream and saw the storm coming right at us. We couldn’t avoid it,” Pope recalls. “I took charge of the foredeck work and navigation. Collin was at the helm. The storm was nasty; the winds were whipping at about 40 knots. Most adults would freak out in a situation like that, but Collin didn’t. He kept his cool and did a great job. I had confidence in him that he could do it, and he did.”

Collin says that sailing through the storm was the most challenging part of the race. “It was pretty intense,” he says. “The storm hit us like a brick wall. The rain came down like bullets. We were both cold and wet. I didn’t, well, I couldn’t think much. I just had to do what I had to do to get through it.”

Despite the storm, Walkabout cruised at an average speed of 6-1/2 knots, finishing the double-handed leg of the Bermuda One-Two in a little more than four days and six hours. Pope and Collin placed first in their class with the best combined corrected time and had the best time for a first-time entrant and for a family crew.

“It’s hard to say now, Collin being a teenager,” Pope says, “but I hope he learned something about sailing from this experience. I hope he learned something about himself.”

Now that they’re back home in Warren, Maine, Collin is back in high school and Pope has returned to work as owner of Pope Sails and Rigging in Rockland. As for Pope and his son racing in the next Bermuda One-Two in 2007, Pope doesn’t think it’ll happen.

“That will be the year Collin graduates from high school, so I doubt we’ll do it,” he says. “I can’t say we’ll never do it again, though. Collin suggested that next time he should do the single-handed leg and I be the helmsman on the way back. I think that’s pretty neat.”